Lebanon News

Threat persists as would-be bombers still at large

Civil Defense personnel struggle to put out the flames coming out of the hotel room, where the suicide bombers blew themselves up on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Security forces are still on the hunt for would-be suicide bombers along with two explosives-rigged vehicles, a security source said Friday.

The Army, meanwhile, said that it had seized material used to make explosive belts during a raid in north Lebanon in the military’s latest crackdown on terror groups seeking to destabilize the country as a sequel to the violent spillover from Syria and Iraq.

“Military and security forces are on high alert, searching for suicide bombers and two explosives-laden vehicles,” a security source told The Daily Star.

The Army said that it had confiscated material used to make explosive belts during a raid in the north province of Akkar.

The military said in a statement that detainee Mahmoud Khaled confessed to stashing several rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition underground on his property in the village of Fnaydeq.

The Army then raided the location and confiscated “explosive material, RPGs, in addition to large quantity of metal balls used to make explosive belts.”

Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr said the two Saudi suicide bombers and their partners had planned to carry out attacks in public locations and residential gatherings in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“Investigation [with the Saudi suicide bomber’s partner] is ongoing. The two Saudis and their partners had planned to carry out suicide attacks targeting public places and popular gatherings,” Saqr told The Daily Star.

He declined to give further details, as the investigation is shrouded in complete secrecy.

A Saudi national, Abdul-Rahman al-Thawani, detonated his explosive belt at the Duroy Hotel in Raouche Wednesday evening, killing himself to evade arrest during a pre-emptive raid by General Security personnel.

The bombing was the third to rattle Lebanon in less than a week, fueling fears of violent fallout from Syria and Iraq.

Thawani’s partner, the would-be- suicide bomber, Abdul-Rahman al-Shnifi, survived the blast that wounded 11 people, including three General Security personnel. A security source said Shnifi, who suffered severe burns, told investigators that the pair planned to carry out a double suicide attack against As-Saha restaurant, located on the Beirut airport road in the southern suburbs and frequented by Hezbollah officials. The source said the pair were members of the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

General Security has released the photo of a suspected terrorist it says had provided the Saudi pair with explosive belts. The suspect was identified as Monzer al-Hasan, who hails from the northern province of Akkar.

A senior military official said the Army was determined to crush suspected terrorists bent on destabilizing Lebanon.

Asked to comment on an unauthentic Twitter statement by a group affiliated with the ISIS that claimed responsibility for the bombing at the Duroy Hotel, the official told The Daily Star: “The names of these groups do not mean anything. The ISIS, the Nusra Front and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades represent terrorism and killings. These groups are under Army intelligence surveillance that aims to apprehend its members.”

“The Army’s battle against terrorism will go on to crush terrorist groups and protect civil peace,” the official said.

Defense Minister Samir Moqbel praised the Army for its work in combating terrorism, saying turmoil in Lebanon and its surroundings required politicians and people to support their military institutions.

“Amid such critical times in the region and Lebanon, Lebanese look to the Army to enforce their security and stability,” Moqbel said. “Despite the delicate local and regional political and security circumstances, the Army and its intelligence have succeeded in uncovering several terror cells and apprehending its members and foiled terrorist plots.”

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora renewed his call for Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria, saying this was essential to shield Lebanon from the repercussions of regional turmoil.

“Something is dragging the country into minefields ... because it is involving Lebanon in things we cannot tolerate: It is the role Hezbollah is playing in Syria and its fighting alongside the Syrian regime,” Siniora told reporters at his office in the southern city of Sidon.

Referring to the latest suicide bombings in Lebanon, he said: “Confronting terrorist operations that happen in Lebanon is by preventing this fire and this raging volcano in Syria and Iraq from spreading to Lebanon with further internal unity and keenness on civil peace among the Lebanese.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 28, 2014, on page 1.




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